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The best books on educational game design!

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January 9, 2019

I have to start by saying that I love games! Good games are intuitive, immersive and most importantly, they are fun!

There is a huge debate on how games can be used to help people learn, from traditional education to lifelong learning and instructional design. There are those who consider games a distraction from learning and there are those who find in games this magic that attracts learners’ attention. There are also different approaches to designing such games that aim at helping players learn. Since educational game design (or serious game design) is such a complex and fascinating topic, this is a selection of the Top books (in my opinion) on educational game design:

 

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education

By Karl M. Kapp

What do you think about the term gamification in learning? Whether you like or disagree with this term, Kapp’s book provides a very interesting introduction to the notion of gamification in learning and instruction. Kapp considers that efficient and meaningful learning experiences can come from the use game-based mechanics in educational contexts. The book is a very interesting starting point for those who want to enter the world of learning and gamification. Amazon link

 

Educational Game Design Fundamentals: A Journey to Creating Intrinsically Motivating Learning Experiences

By George Kalmpourtzis

Probably the most comprehensive book for designing educational games. Kalmpourtzis bases his book on the idea of creating intrinsically motivating learning experiences and how teachers, trainers, instructional designers can design games to achieve that. The book offers a nice overview of different pedagogic principles and approaches and uses those to examine how educational games can be built. The book also addresses several aspects of the game design process, such as game aesthetics, mechanics, storytelling, evaluation by providing plenty of examples from the author’s experience but also the one of other notable industry veterans that contribute to the book. Amazon link

 

A Theory of Fun for Game Design

By Raph Koster

Despite the book’s small size, this is a very classic read for the field of game design. I find this book very relevant for the field of instructional design too. The book tries to answer some fundamental questions about game design: what is fun, what types of interaction exist between players and games and how learning can be facilitated through games. Koster briefly, but very efficiently, addresses several aspects and components of games, offering arguments and food for thought for using games in learning contexts. This book is a very nice introduction to game design, that both educates and inspires. Amazon link

 

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

By James Paul Gee

Another classic book on the use of games in educational contexts. In this book, Gee provides arguments and his perspective on the use of video games for learning. In his analysis, he actually presents a list of learning principles, by which video games help players develop their skills and learn. Gee elaborates in detail on all those principles and tries to provide tools that instructional designers can use to improve their deliveries. Amazon link

 

The Art of Game Design

by Jesse Schell

When it comes to casual game design, the Art of Game Design is the first book that aspiring game designers read. The Art of Game Design provides many things: an overview of game design processes, best practices for designing games, examples from the Schell’s long experience and, most importantly, endless inspiration to enter the world of game design. The book also presents a set of perspectives, called lenses, which actually address aspects, challenges and opportunities that games designers face when they design their games. Whether you are designing a casual or learning game, The Art of Game Design is a must read! Amazon link
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IFIGENEIA TSOLAKI
France

Hi! My name is Ifigeneia and I am an instructional designer and e-learning expert. I have been working for a variety of fields and projects, including academia, formal education, lifelong learning and HR trainings. Coming from a creative background, with a rich experience on puppetry, stop-motion and game design, I advocate for creative and intrinsically motivating learning experiences in every project I work on.